New York.- By Vicki J Yiannias
The most famous of Greece’s antiquities, the Athenian Acropolis, has suffered devastating damage from various causes in its lifetime, but specifically devoted to all aspects of restoration and conservation of this ancient marvel is the Hellenic Ministry of Culture’s Acropolis Restoration Service, whose work, based on Greece’s living tradition of marble-work, is an international model for restoration.
Dr. Fani Mallouchou-Tufano, Director of the Documentation Office at the Acropolis Restoration Service in Athens, a specialist in the philosophies and ideologies of conservation, how to define, manage and preserve “cultural heritage”, was invited to speak on these topics, discussed for the first time in this country, by the University of Michigan’s Modern Greek Program January 17 through 19
Dr. Mallachou-Tufano, who was presented with support from the Constantine A. Tsangadas Fund and the Foundation for Modern Greek Studies, and only visited Michigan on her trip, told The Greek News, “We use traditional techniques working the marble, like the ancients . . . handwork done by specially trained marble technicians, but in a laboratory. We have a living tradition in Greece with marble working, and we have marvelous marble technicians. We work on the monuments in the ancient way and technique using tools similar to the ancients. Simultaneously, we use modern technology, of course, such as for the organization of the work-sites, for research in collaboration with different institutes, for the management of documentation. But to work on the marble we work in the traditional way.”
Dr. Mallouchou-Tufano gave three presentations which dealt not with antiquity as such, but with the way we moderns have seen, interpreted, and restored ancient works. The first was in Professor Artemis Leontis’s class, “Athens – Past & Present” on January 17, a public lecture on January 18, and a graduate seminar on January 19.
In the class “Athens Past & Present” Dr. Mallouchou-Tufano presented a general overview of restorations of ancient monuments throughout Athens showing how the Greek state worked to restore the the archaeological sites and monuments of the Acropolis in Athens from the early 19th century — after the designation of the city as the capital of the Modern Greek state — to the present day.
In her January 18 lecture to the public, The Restoration of the Athenian Acropolis (1834-2005), what has been done and what remains to be done to this ancient site,
Her emphasis was on contemporary views of conservation and restoration and current restoration works, which began in 1976, executed by the Acropolis Restoration Service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture under the scholarly supervision of the Committee for the Conservation of the Acropolis monuments.
Dr. Mallacou-Tufano discussed, with illustrations, specifically how the archaeological sites of Athens took on their present appearance, “always in connection with the development of the city and the exterior conditions that prevailed at the time.” She provided a chronological narration that touched first on the period of the King, then the Asia Minor disaster, how Athens, changed from being a beautiful Neoclassical city between World Wars I and II, excavations of the Archaia Agora by the American School, and efforts made toward tourism in the recent periods which are the large-scale projects — since 2000 — of the Acropolis restoration and the unification of the archaeological sites of Athens. “They have created the beautiful pedestrian zones that have really changed, the whole historical city, the landscape, in the center of Athens,” Dr. Mallachou-Tufano said to The Greek News. “They are efforts to bring closer antiquities, and the patrimony of the past with modern life. The last years we also have money from the European community, and we have done a lot of things.”
It is not only the unification of antiquities that is an exceptional accomplishment, said Dr. Mallachou-Tufano, it is also the Metropolitan Railway. “In the Metro stations in the Center — in Syntagma Station, Panepistimiou Station, for instance — are on display the antiquities that have been found in those areas. There are explanatory panels, models, a reproduction of the stratigraphy. Syntagma Station is like a museum. These are very good measures to bring people closer to antiquities.”
A development brought up by Dr. Mallachou-Tufano in her lecture is a trend in Athens for modern buildings to be constructed with antiquities incorporated into their architectural design. The new administration building of the National Bank of Greece at the corner of Aiolou and Sophocleos Streets has incorporated as part of its design a gate of the Classical fortification of Athens. The same thing is true of the New Acropolis Museum, in which antiquities uncovered in the terrain under the new building will be incorporated as a downstairs exhibition unit of the museum.
What does Dr. Mallachou-Tufano think is the most significant achievement of the Acropolis Restoration Service in the last twenty years? “I think the quality of the restoration of the Acropolis is very important. The quality and the procedures we have instituted in this work are internationally recognized . . . the way we execute restorations is an international model.” Dr. Mallachou Tufano’s seminar for specialists on January 19 discussed technical information regarding the new, internationally recognized discoveries in preservation and conservation made by the Service from 1975-2005.
“We have done very original applications; most of it is the cleaning and conservation of the West Frieze with laser technology, developing an original laser application in collaboration with the Institute for Laser and Technology.”
Professor Vassilis Lambropoulos, the first and only holder of the Program’s Constantine Cavafy Chair told The Greek News that “They have proved they know how to study them, understand them, respect them, restore them, and share them with all humanity. That is why the Michigan Modern Greek Program brought this speaker to campus — to honor a modern Greek achievement that generations will be able to enjoy & admire.”
Dr. Mallachou-Tufano’s illustrated lectures are available on the highly informative University of Michigan Modern Greek website: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/modgreek/window/